Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) has clarified its intentions for its wireless business. “We have no plans to build out a full national wireless network,” stated Tom Nagel, Comcast SVP, Wireless Strategy, in a blog post on the company’s website on Wednesday. “Rather, where it makes sense, we plan to selectively deploy our own 5G radios in dense, high-traffic areas of the markets we serve today.”
This an important position statement for the company’s competitive position and how it intends to deploy its wireless assets, as Inside Towers has reported. Comcast launched Xfinity Mobile in 2017, as a MVNO on Verizon’s network. At the end of 2Q22, Comcast reported 4.6 million wireless lines in service, still carried by Verizon. That’s tiny compared to the 355 million retail subscribers held collectively by Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T at the end of the quarter.
Let’s keep these numbers in context. Comcast operates in 40 states with concentrations in metro markets in the Northeast, Mid-West, the Southeast and in California. At the end of the quarter, Comcast’s cable network had passed nearly 61 million homes and businesses. Of that total, over 32 million residences and businesses, or roughly 53 percent were broadband customers. Comcast has the largest base of WiFi hotspots in the country.
Though only 13 percent of Comcast’s total customers, wireless is an increasingly strategic component of the company’s three-part wireless offerings – WiFi, MVNO on Verizon and its own 5G network – to deliver a high-quality connectivity experience for Xfinity Mobile and Comcast Business Mobile customers at home, in the office, or on the go.
Nagel points out, “Our original strategy from back in 2017 still holds true today – provide a high-quality wireless service with the best devices that delivers more value to our internet customers and, in turn, encourages them to stay with us and attract new ones along the way.” He adds that with the three strategic pillars, Comcast’s wireless efforts turned profitable in 2021, and now is a growth opportunity.
Comcast has the ingredients to build its own 5G infrastructure. For starters, it has spectrum. Comcast currently holds an average of 10 MHz of 600 MHz spectrum across its operating territory. In FCC Auction 105, it spent $459 million to acquire 830 3.5 GHz CBRS Priority Access Licenses across 306 counties in its footprint. It holds at least 20 MHz of CBRS spectrum in every market and as much as 50 MHz in select markets.
“By coupling mid-band CBRS spectrum, which provides localized network capacity, with the low-band 600 MHz spectrum, which provides broad wireless coverage, we plan to efficiently deliver new 5G services that both improve our customers’ experience and lower our overall service costs,” Nagel says. “Our current spectrum holdings cover roughly 80 percent of Comcast’s homes passed and around 50 percent of the U.S. population, and those are the areas where we’ll focus. Because we know where Xfinity Mobile and Comcast Business Mobile customers use the most cellular data, we now have the option to economically deploy additional 5G capacity to better serve our customers and deliver even more value through our mobile service.”
5G RAN Equipment
Separately, on Wednesday, Comcast announced that Samsung Electronics will supply its 5G RAN equipment including a new 5G CBRS Strand Small Cell that can be mounted on existing aerial cable lines (i.e., strands), quickly and cost-effectively.
By John Celentano, Inside Towers Business Editor